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A Chicago man has filed a civil rights lawsuit against the city of Chicago and three of its police officers over an August 2011 incident where police allegedly assaulted him during a dustup his attorney says also exhibits a racial hate crime.
Tyrone Gillett, 29, of Chicago, who is black, was allegedly beaten last summer after police officers noticed he was recording them responding to a disturbance call in the Loop on Aug. 3, the Chicago Tribune reports.
Gillett captured footage showing that, while a police officer approached and politely asked another man, who was white, to stop filming the police activity -- as such a recording is a violation of the state's contentious anti-eavesdropping law. When it came to him, the officer allegedly took away his phone, swore at him, assaulted him and pulled him over to the hood of a squad car, according to the Tribune.
While not charged under the eavesdropping act, Gillett was accused of resisting arrest, a misdemeanor charge that was ultimately dismissed by the Cook County State's Attorney's Office as the man has no criminal history, Courthouse News reports.
Torreya Hamilton, Gillett's attorney, told NBC Chicago that her client's footage "shows two individuals being treated dramatically differently based on the color of their skin."
Further, Hamilton argues, the incident shows that Illinois residents need to have the option to "police the police," even as the state's so-called eavesdropping law, which outlaws as a Class 1 felony the non-consensual audio recording of anyone -- including police, NBC reports. Violating the law can result in a prison sentence of up to 15 years.
Gillett, who spent a night in prison after his arrest, is suing the city of Chicago for false arrest, unlawful search, violation of equal protection and malicious prosecution, according to Courthouse News. His lawsuit also names one specific officer, Sgt. Thompson, of excessive force, battery and a hate crime.
The state's eavesdropping law has come under renewed scrutiny in recent months. While Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez has defended the law, Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said last month that he disagrees and "actually endorses video and audio recording."
Legislation currently being considered by the state General Assembly, introduced this year by state Rep. Elaine Nekritz (D-Naperville), would also amend the state's Eavesdropping Act to decriminalize the recording of police officers when they are enforcing laws in a public place. The law also is in the midst of two separate legal challenges, as Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has asked the state Supreme Court to address whether it is constitutional.
Patrick Coughlin, deputy chief of the narcotics bureau in Alvarez's office, however, recently defended the law as protecting the individual rights of police officers, Forest View Suburban Life reported.
"This is not leveling the playing field," Coughlin said. "This is giving more rights to private citizens to collect evidence of a crime than officers have."
Tiawanda Moore, a woman acquitted last fall of violating the contentious law, earlier this year also filed suit against the city, alleging false arrest. Moore was arrested for audio recording a police officer who discouraged her from filing a complaint alleging that another officer groped her breast while responding to a domestic disturbance call at her home.